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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > creatives >  Damon Stapleton
Damon Stapleton

damonart Damon StapletonExecutive Creative Director
Saatchi & Saatchi Australia


I first met Damon at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in South Africa. Having just arrived in Johannesburg to launch The Saturn Return Project, unsure of my surroundings and jetlagged sideways, I did not have any guard up when a guy approached me and said, “Try this,” handing me a piece of ostrich biltong (akin to jerky). For some reason, I instantly trusted him and happily ate the biltong (and liked it!).

Little did I know the legend of the man that stood before me. Aside from being a hysterical jokester with a one-of-a-kind sense of humor, he’s one of the top executive creative directors in the world. He’s behind “The Trillion Dollar” campaign for The Zimbabwean (if you don’t know, you should know. Consult the Google or read on.) His roster of brands includes BMW, Nissan, Heineken, MTN, Standard Bank, Visa, Jameson, and the World Cup 2010 campaign for Adidas. And his extensive hardware collection includes a Cannes Grand Prix, 19 Cannes Lions, the first black Cube ever given by the Art Directors Club, six Gold One Show Pencils, two Grand Clios and a D&AD Black Pencil (the first ever received in Africa).

He took “Hunts” (TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris) to number one in South Africa, and number three in the world in terms of advertising. And then, of course, the phone began to ring. It was Saatchi & Saatchi Australia that lured Damon away from Johannesburg and back to the country where he was born.

Just about one year into his new gig as Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Australia, I caught back up with Damon, and he was kind enough to bestow some of his wisdom, experience and humor upon IHAVEANIDEA.

IHAVEANIDEA: Tell me about Damon as a boy; where did you grow up and what was it like?

Damon: I was born in Australia and grew up in Botswana, South Africa and England. My dad was a hotel manager so because of that I went to sixteen different schools and ate a lot of room service.

IHAVEANIDEA: Sixteen schools, wow. What was that like and what did you gain from that experience?

Damon: It definitely had its ups and downs. Always being the new boy at school could be tricky. On the plus side I learned how to deal with all sorts of people. You learn how to adapt and how to thrive.

IHAVEANIDEA: I’m sure. What were some early influences on your life as you traveled around the world?

Damon: Spaghetti westerns on the hotel video channel, bad lounge singers and the many stories that happen in hotel lobbies.

IHAVEANIDEA: (laughs) That explains so much, yet leaves so many questions. So, what did you want to be when you were 5 years old?

Damon: Taller.

IHAVEANIDEA: When did the vortex of advertising first pull you in? Was there “a moment” when you knew it was for you?

Damon: I know it sounds simple, but that moment was probably when I had a half-decent idea and all of a sudden there were all these people trying to help me bring it to life. The rush you get from thinking something and then making it happen… that feeling never goes away.

“The rush you get from thinking something and then making it happen… that feeling never goes away.”

IHAVEANIDEA: Your time at Hunts was nothing short of extraordinary. You turned the creative around, led teams that adored you and made it rain with awards. If you had to pick one defining moment of your time in Jo’burg, what would it be?

Damon: It’s really difficult to pick one. But at a push it would be the moment that five of us sat in a room and backed the Zimbabwean work. We believed in it, but we didn’t know if anybody else would. It’s a very powerful thing to experience, that feeling of total belief.

In my career it’s only happened a few times, but when it does, it makes you understand how far you can go: way beyond your limits. I think it’s like being in the zone as a sportsman.

IHAVEANIDEA: The “Trillion Dollar Campaign” for The Zimbabwean is the winningest campaign of all time, including the first Black Cube ADC had ever given out at its Annual Awards. Can you give a little insight into that campaign?

Damon: It was essentially about doing something with nothing. The problem was the solution. It’s funny how that has often happened in my career; you find the answer by leaning into the problem. Beyond that, the more we got involved with this campaign the more we wanted to help the clients make a difference.

“The more we got involved with this campaign the more we wanted to help the clients make a difference.”

To put it into context, the editor of the newspaper was living in exile and was constantly getting death threats. One of my great advertising moments was when he appeared at the D&AD award ceremony in a tuxedo out of nowhere. Nobody could know his movements for safety reasons, so it was fantastic when he appeared like an African James Bond and went on stage with us to get the Black Pencil.

IHAVEANIDEA: What did the recognition for that campaign mean to you and to Hunts? And for that matter, probably to the country of Zimbabwe?

Damon: I think it restored and increased our confidence as an agency. We had been through a rough time and this really repaid the faith and the late nights. Hunts is an agency that is meant to be the best, so it was a bit like coming home. There’s a saying that creativity isn’t a thing, it’s a way, and I think this campaign showed us that.

For Zimbabwe, I think this campaign managed to refocus the world’s attention. Horrible images and terrible stories are just part of an endless news cycle, and we managed to disrupt that.

“There’s a saying that creativity isn’t a thing, it’s a way, and I think this campaign showed us that.”

IHAVEANIDEA: There was quite a bidding war on who would win the talent of Damon Stapleton when you decided it was time to leave South Africa. How did Saatchi & Saatchi Australia win the prize and what drew you to Sydney?

Damon: Sometimes you just know. And 1,000 global phone calls can be very persuasive.

IHAVEANIDEA: After almost a year in Sydney, what is your favorite thing about the city so far?

Damon: The optimism.

IHAVEANIDEA: Do you have any reflections on the work and people at Saatchi Sydney from the past year?

Damon: It’s still the early days but I think we have a great bunch of people and I know the work is just around the corner. It’s funny, because it’s the exact same feeling I had at Hunts just before it all came together.

IHAVEANIDEA: Your number one goal in the next year for yourself and your teams?

Damon: To be proud and happy with the ideas we have made. To lose 5 kgs. To become a top hand model.

IHAVEANIDEA: I’ll be rooting for you. And finally, the one thing you cannot live without is…

Damon: Oxygen.

Keep up with Damon on Twitter at @D_Stapleton and learn a bit more from him here (reflections on his time in Africa filmed during his time as ECD of
TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris).

 

brianna Damon Stapleton
Brianna Graves
Director of IHAVEANIDEA
IHAVEANIDEA

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=650161845 Lerato Amore Ngakane

    One of the most incredible human beings i’ve met, he gave me my first job as a copywriter at Hunts.  Do best D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=650161845 Lerato Amore Ngakane

    Damon, incredibly intuitive! Thank you for believing in us, and Im lucky to have met you

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